Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) - Capriccio Espagnol
is an instrument comprising mirrors enclosing bits of coloured glass which
produces, by the simplest of means, the most marvellously coloured patterns
- a close analogy to Rimsky-Korsakov, except that anyone can work
a kaleidoscope. Rimsky-Korsakov's skill for shaking up orchestral instruments
is arguably still unique.
always so. Originally a Naval Officer, perhaps explaining his taste for
the exotic, he started composing as an untrained amateur. In 1867, his
“ultra-modernism”(?) earned him the Professorship of Practical Composition
at St. Petersburg Conservatoire. But, as he said, he “couldn't harmonise
a chorale, had never done any exercises in counterpoint, had no idea of
strict fugue, and moreover couldn't name the chords and intervals.” His
knowledge of instrumental techniques was scant (and obsolete!). He coped
by teaching himself one step ahead of his students, thereby becoming at
once a great teacher and a model pupil.
have been Sadko, A Musical Picture Op. 5, a disgracefully neglected
masterpiece of orchestral inventiveness, that prompted this crucial recognition,
setting him on a course (N.B. Naval metaphor!) which led in 1887 to the
Espagnol, that most famous of ersatz-Spanish music (indeed, many find
it more idiomatic than Falla). You could just relax and bathe in Rimsky's
intoxicating brew (I usually do!). Otherwise, read on:
or “morning dance”, bursts out fit to wake the dead, never mind the sleeping,
alternating two lushly-scored fortissimi with two much sparer renditions,
the second melting away into silence.
of Variazioni on a gorgeously romantic tune form a beautiful if
relatively conventional interlude.
returns dressed in new clothes, principally the staggeringly simple device
of more or less swapping the roles of the solo clarinet and violin. A sudden
crescendo heralds ...
e Canto Gitano: balancing the Variazioni, the Scene is
a group of largely cadential variations, each solo cadenza sporting a different
percussion halo, on the theme of the subsequent Gypsy Song.
(about where Dean drags Torville like a matador's cape!), the Fandango
stamps in emphatically, triggering an astonishing sequence where Rimsky
repeatedly establishes one sonority, then overlays it with another in a
veritable counterpoint of colour. The Gypsy Song makes a brief reappearance
just before the coda, the Alborada resurging in a dizzying whirl,
whose dull cadence might spark a small pang of disappointment, if we weren't
too dizzy to notice.
© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street,
for use apply. Details here
Copyright in these notes is retained by the author without whose prior written permission they may not be used, reproduced, or kept in any form of data storage system. Permission for use will generally be granted on application, free of charge subject to the conditions that (a) the author is duly credited, and (b) a donation is made to a charity of the author's choice.